UPDATE 8:45 pm: Palestinian terrorist Qassam rocket strikes Sderot.
UPDATE 11:40 am: Palestinian terrorist Qassam rocket strikes in Eshkol region. Further east, residents of Kiryat Gat report another explosion.
UPDATE 8:00 am: Southern Israel was “only” hit by one rocket yesterday–a strike that was not reported in any of the mainline Israeli news media. The investigation into the killing of Rabbi Martzbach continues with the IDF now blaming the Rabbi for driving with no lights on.
Your humble servant never thought he would write a blog about a broken water pipe. Yet what happened yesterday here in Ashdod is a microcosm of what is happening all over Israel.
It all started simply enough yesterday morning when a build-up of water pressure in an old water pipe that runs along Uzziyahu Street here in Ashdod caused the pipe to ‘explode’–cutting off the water supply to thousands of city residents. But not to worry: an Ashdod municipal contractor arrived promptly on the scene with his workers to fix the pipe. They identified the source of the problem and began digging to replace the piece of the pipe that was broken.
That is when the real trouble started. It turns out that one side of Uzziyahu Street is home to long-time secular residents of Ashdod while the other side of Uzziyahu Street is home to a relatively new neighborhood of ultra-orthodox Ashdodis.
As soon as the orthodox residents heard the digging, they rushed outside to protest that Shabbat was being defiled–whereupon the contractor produced a certificate showing that he had been authorized by the Chief Rabbi of Ashdod to undertake repairs to this water pipe on Shabbat.
To no avail. As the workers tried to continue, the number of protesting orthodox swelled and blocked the workers from replacing the broken pipe. The contractor called the Ashdod police to come and protect his workers and quell the disturbance.
The police showed up shortly thereafter and ordered all sides to “break it up.” Finally, the workers gave up and said that they would return at night, after Shabbat was over, to replace the pipe.
Meanwhile, this decision was met with total disbelief by the secular side of Uzziyahu Street who began their own protest. Hundreds of people, many of them elderly residents, appeared in the street to protest the municipal decision to wait until nightfall to fix the pipe.
Nursing homes located on the secular side were forced into emergency procedures: dialysis patients had to be transported to Ashkelon to the nearest hospital. One resident on the secular side, whose father is in one of the nursing homes, harshly criticized the city of Ashdod: “Why did they give in to the orthodox? How can the nursing home take care of my father without water? We all feel like hostages.”
By mid-afternoon, the secular residents had staged a mini-riot of their own, breaking open a fire hydrant to get water.
Events similar to those that occurred on Uzziyahu Street yesterday are happening with increasing frequency all over Israel. As the high cost of living in Jerusalem and its suburbs drives the orthodox into outlying cities (Ashdod is only about 50 miles from Jerusalem), conflicts between the established secular communities in these areas and the incoming Orthodox are on the rise. The situation is not unlike the water pipe running down Uzziyahu Street–ready to explode at any minute from the increasing pressure.
As the events yesterday on Uzziyahu street show, new mechanisms must be put into place to keep these conflicts at a minimum so that both orthodox and secular Israelis can follow their own vision of Judaism in peace.
Addendum: In a Biblical sense, it is interesting that this event in Ashdod yesterday happened on Uzziyahu Street–named of course for King Uzziyahu (Uzziah), one of the most competent, powerful, and longest reigning kings in Jewish history (52 years: 768-716 BCE).
Yet Uzziyahu’s act of defiling the Holy Temple by entering it to make sacrifices led to his downfall. Your humble servant wonders what Uzziyahu would have thought about replacing the water pipe on Shabbat?